Sunday, May 27, 2007

Using Taxpayer-Funded Resources to Lobby, not Teach

A friend from Farmington, Eric Rosenberg, had a great op-ed published today:

Farmington Eccentric: It's time to hold the line -- no tax increases (05/27/07)

(My post here addresses a point about schools raised in Rosenberg's article. But it's important to note that Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, and all of the Senate Republicans, deserve a sincere "Thank You!" for devising SEVERAL plans to rescue the state budget without a unnecessary tax increase. You can click here to send a note to the Senator.)

In his article, Rosenberg points out:

"The Farmington school organization is using its computer facilities and personnel to push a program of people bothering (legislative) offices with calls actually scripting them on what to say."

It's not just Farmington that's guilty of misusing taxpayer resources; I've seen similar efforts from several districts.

Call your legislator now -- the sky is falling. We need more money. Do it now; it's for your children.

And it goes far beyond using computers. Taxpayer dollars are used to fund lobbyists at the ISD level, and taxpayer dollars flow to associations that employ lobbists, such as the Michigan Association of School Boards, the Michigan Association of School Business Officials, and the Michigan Association of Superintendents.

School boards also authorize taxpayer funds to be used to belong to similar associations at the county level, whose duties include lobbying and lobbying strategies.

Even if it's only $10,000 - $15,000 per year, it's still money that should be going towards teaching, or curriculum, or technology.

The public has elected school board members who are perfectly capable of contacting their legislators -- for free.

Here is the text of Eric's article:

An Open Letter to Sen. Majority Leader Mike Bishop and Sen. Nancy Cassis:

Please disregard the campaign of hysteria, doomsday, and perdition being foisted upon us by the Michigan Education Association leaders, Michigan Association of School Boards, superintendents' organizations, and other such organizations whose leadership exists and thrives by virtue of how much money it can extract from our pressed citizenry, and how much power it can utilize by scaring us into tax increases.

Enough is enough, continue to hold the line against any tax increase whatsoever.

Michigan's economy depends on lower taxes, not higher. We must make do with less. Companies, non-profits and every other non-governmental organization must make do in this tough economy with streamlined expenses and flat to falling revenues. Other places have made it through and recovered without raising taxes, such as California, etc. Those places that have raised taxes simply encourage the most productive of their workforce to leave the state. Michigan cannot afford any more out-migration.

Majority Leader Bishop and Senator Cassis, let me be perfectly direct. Representative Vagnozzi does not speak for me. While he is a pleasant and decent man and cordial persona, he simply is unable or unwilling to comprehend that his stories about his father's job and union standing and immigration to this country, while moving and positive, have nothing to do with our competitive and global world here in 2007 Farmington or Farmington Hills or indeed Michigan.

Senator Jacobs, while a well-intentioned individual, continues the support for expensive, nanny state government that is not only unaffordable, but also in violation of the idea that we are entitled to more freedom and less government. We cannot afford folks in power who act as partisan and personal advocates for MEA leaders and other such folks in power, and do not represent vast numbers of us here in middle America, right in Farmington and the Hills.

The Farmington school organization is using its computer facilities and personnel to push a program of people bothering your offices with calls actually scripting them on what to say.

It is of questionable legality at best as to whether the district may use resources, labor, equipment and software to politic on behalf of the tax increasing positions of Representative Vagnozzi and Senator Jacobs (notice the e-mail blames the legislature, not the governor -- sounds pretty partisan to me). But even if it is legal, it is reprehensible. If our schools have the labor power to prepare and send out blast e-mails such as the forwarded, obviously, we can afford staffing cuts.

I have no doubt, from talking to friends in other districts, that Farmington is not alone. However, I live in Farmington Hills, and wish to make sure that you remember that the silent majority opposes tax increases and wants you to hold the line.

This use of school personnel and computer resources exemplifies exactly what is wrong with our system. You two must hold the line and say no; the public, not the elites, but the mainstream public, parents, teachers (as opposed to their elitist and retrograde leadership in Lansing) and others will back doing the right thing by saying no to tax increases.

Editor's Note: A portion of this commentary refers to an "Urgent Call for Action" in a bulk e-mail distributed this week by the Farmington Public School District via its FPSListServ network, in conjunction with the Parent Legislative Advocacy Network. It urges people to contact their legislators about school funding.
Eric J. Rosenberg is a Farmington Hills resident.


Anonymous said...

"We cannot afford folks in power who act as partisan and personal advocates for MEA leaders..."


Anonymous said...

As opposed to people in power who are anti-union and anti MEA? That's better?